News / Arts & Entertainment

Palestinians Unite Behind Gaza Strip 'Arab Idol' Star

A banner depicting Mohammed Assaf, a contestant in the TV talent show 'Arab Idol', is seen on a building in the West Bank city of Ramallah May 13, 2013.A banner depicting Mohammed Assaf, a contestant in the TV talent show 'Arab Idol', is seen on a building in the West Bank city of Ramallah May 13, 2013.
x
A banner depicting Mohammed Assaf, a contestant in the TV talent show 'Arab Idol', is seen on a building in the West Bank city of Ramallah May 13, 2013.
A banner depicting Mohammed Assaf, a contestant in the TV talent show 'Arab Idol', is seen on a building in the West Bank city of Ramallah May 13, 2013.
Reuters
The fractious factions in the Gaza Strip and across the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories have found one voice to unite behind - a 22-year-old youth singing songs about a lost homeland on the Middle East's version of 'American Idol'.
 
Gaza native Mohammed Assaf has become the first Palestinian to qualify for 'Arab Idol', a TV talent show staged in Beirut, in which singers perform for judges and voting viewers.
 
He is now one of the last 10 contestants - largely thanks to his potent mix of good looks and emotional lyrics about ancestral Palestinian lands.
 
“He is the pride of Palestine. He broke the siege with his voice,'' said fan Rehaf al-Batniji, referring to Israel's blockade of Gaza, seized by the Jewish state, along with the West Bank, during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
 
She stood in front of a large mural of Assaf at a Gaza restaurant, one of hundreds of posters covering buildings and walls usually marked with political slogans.
 
Assaf's songs blare out of radios - a counter-balance to their usual broadcasts of bleak economic and political news.
 
Politicians have raced to endorse him and Palestinian mobile phone company Jawwal has cut the price of text messages to make it easier for supporters to vote.
 
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, from the Fatah movement that holds sway in the West Bank, phoned the singer in Beirut and urged all Arabs to vote for him.
 
“The president stressed his support and backing to artist Assaf, whose talent represented pride to Palestine,'' said a statement by the Palestinian official news agency WAFA.
 
The Gaza Strip is ruled by the rival Islamist Hamas faction - a group that disapproves of non-Islamic songs and the kind of Western-style excess on full display in TV talent shows.
 
But even Hamas has come as close as it possibly can to showing support.
 
“He comes from a good, respected and known family,'' Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said on Facebook.
 
Assaf first made his name inside Gaza at the age of 11, when he recorded a song in 2001 called “O Town be Strong'', at the height of Israeli incursions in the enclave during a Palestinian uprising.
 
On Arab Idol, broadcast by Saudi-owned MBC Group, he has performed with a traditional black-and-white Palestinian scarf around his shoulders.
 
His performances have included “Flying Bird'' which lists the cities of historical Palestine and another song urging Palestinians to unite.
 
The program's celebrity judges from across the Arab world - where the Palestinian cause reverberates - have piled praise on the singer.
 
“I see the Arab idol standing before my eyes,'' said Egyptian composer Hassan El Shafei.
 
“Your voice is made of diamond,'' added Ahlam, a famous singer from the United Arab Emirates.
 
Listening in was Assaf's mother, Umm Shadi Assaf, watching the show in a restaurant near her home in Gaza's Khan Younis refugee camp.
 
Her son had only one wish, she told Reuters, beaming with pride, “to go out and make the world listen to his voice''.

You May Like

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: fred from: Australia
May 14, 2013 9:13 AM
Iam very proud of the palestenian singer mohammed assaf brinig unity among palestenian and hopefuly can bring peace with the jewish people .Its about time both side should have harmony and love songs intead of killing each other ..the whole world want to see peace and hipe ASSAF can make the diffrences ....

In Response

by: spring-cleaner from: springfield, ca
May 20, 2013 6:16 PM
yours is about the kindest, finest, and non-politicaly-charged posts that i have seen in the past 15 years.

there are so many israelis that are also singers, artists, doctors, scientists, etc that wish the very same thing. To pursue the goal of peace. Bless you.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

The Hamilton Live

Paquito D'Rivera, who has won 12 Grammys, is celebrated both for his artistry in Latin jazz and his achievements as a classical composer. D'Rivera's latest project, “Jazz Meets the Classics,” was released this month. He joins us on the latest edition of "The Hamilton Live."